Quantcast

Two More Michigan Officials Plead ‘No Contest’ as Flint Water Crisis Investigation Continues

The Flint River in downtown Flint, Michigan. Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Two Michigan environmental regulators implicated in the Flint water crisis plead "no contest" in a bid to avoid felony charges. As part of their deal, they will also testify against others involved with the scandal, which contaminated the town of Flint, Michigan's drinking water with lead and resulted in 12 deaths from Legionnaires' Disease, The Huffington Post reported Thursday.


The two officials in question, Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch, both worked for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). They are among 15 officials who have been charged by Michigan's Attorney General's Office in relation to the scandal and the fifth and sixth of that group to plead no contest to misdemeanors, a move similar to a guilty plea when it comes to sentencing, The Detroit Free Press explained.

Prosecutor Todd Flood said he accepted the pleas because of "substantial assistance being given to move the ball down the field in the Flint water investigation," according to The Detroit Free Press.

The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when officials swapped the city's water supply from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the highly corrosive Flint River. The water leached lead from pipes into residents' drinking water, leading to dangerously high levels for 18 months. The water also had low levels of chlorine, which caused the Legionnaires' outbreak, The Huffington Post explained.

The details of the two officials' pleas are as follows, according to The Detroit Free Press.

Michael Prysby

Plea: Prysby plead no contest to a charge under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act related to issuing permits for the Flint Water Treatment Plant and starting it up in April 2014 before it was ready to properly treat water.

Charges Avoided: Prysby had faced two counts of misconduct in office, one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and one count of tampering with evidence.

Testimony: Prysby has agreed to testify that the decision to open the Flint Water Treatment Plant before it was ready was made by state-appointed emergency managers. He has also agreed to testify about a faulty administrative consent order that allowed Flint to issue bonds for a new pipeline to Lake Huron.

Stephen Busch

Plea: Busch plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge for causing a disturbance in a public building. His lawyer, Mark Kriger, explained it was related to a meeting in Flint in January 2015 during which residents raised concerns about foul-smelling, discolored water.

"Because of Mr. Busch's failure to address those concerns adequately, the meeting became extremely boisterous, and in fact it had to be ended prematurely," Kriger told the judge.

Charges Avoided: Busch faced many of the same charges as Prysby, with the addition of an involuntary manslaughter charge, The Huffington Post reported.

Testimony: Busch is prepared to testify that he spoke to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon about legionella bacteria before March 2015, The Detroit Free Press reported. Lyon is the highest-ranking official who will go to trial because of the Flint water crisis. He will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter related to the Legionnaires' outbreak. He did not announce the outbreak until January of 2016, The Associated Press reported.

Busch and Prysby will be sentenced Jan. 23, 2019.

Sponsored
Teenager Alex Weber and friends collected nearly 40,000 golf balls hit into the ocean from a handful of California golf courses. Alex Weber / CC BY-ND

By Matthew Savoca

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.

As a scientist researching marine plastic pollution, I thought I had seen a lot. Then, early in 2017, I heard from Alex Weber, a junior at Carmel High School in California.

Read More Show Less
Southwest Greenland had the most consistent ice loss from 2003 to 2012. Eqalugaarsuit, Ostgronland, Greenland on Aug. 1, 2018. Rob Oo / CC BY 2.0

Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.

"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Read More Show Less
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Read More Show Less
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Read More Show Less
An adult bush dog, part of a captive breeding program. Hudson Garcia

By Jason Bittel

Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.

Read More Show Less
Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive marine mammal.

Read More Show Less